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Giant sunspot shoots out intense, X-class solar flare

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Jason Samenow
Washington Post
July 12, 2012

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) just posted the following:

The R3 (Strong) Radio Blackout today at 12:49 EDT (1649 UTC) was accompanied by an earth-directed CME. Hampered by limited observations of the event, SWPC forecasters are now anticipating the passage of the [coronal mass ejection] around 1:00 a.m. EDT, Saturday, July 14. G1 (minor) Geomagnetic Storm activity is expected to then ensue through the rest of the day.

In short, NOAA is predicting minor effects from this space weather event – no major impacts on the power grid or satellites anticipated – although we remind you forecasting space weather is difficult and surprises are possible. Sky watchers in northern U.S. (and high latitudes) may have an opportunity to see aurora late Friday night into early Saturday morning.

Original post, from 2:30 p.m.: A massive sunspot region facing Earth – known as 1520 – has unleashed a large solar flare. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center says the flare is rated an X1.4. This type of flare is considered “strong” and can cause a blackout of high frequency radio communication on the sunlit side of Earth for one to two hours.

It is not yet known whether the flare was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME) – an outburst of particles that can trigger a geomagnetic storm on Earth and damage the electrical grid.

Joe Kunches of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder said one of the NASA satellites tasked with watching for solar weather, SOHO, was “on maneuvers” when the flare launched.

That will make the task of predicting the course of any subsequent CME more difficult.

Full story here.

This article was posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

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